Jay-Z doesn’t think so. Yesterday he announced his new music streaming service, Tidal, the first of its kind to be owned solely by musicians.
This comes during an on-going debate between musicians, record labels and freemium music streaming services about whether the latter is good for the industry or not. Artists are not pleased that the streaming services enjoy popularity while they barely get a return on their work. Some artists, such as Taylor Swift, have not been afraid to express their concerns. Swift went as far as saying “no” to Spotify, the freemium service that has about 20 million users worldwide, 15 million of which are paying customers.
Her words in her Wall Street Journal article couldn’t be clearer: “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” If you wanted to hear Taylor Swift songs for free now or anytime in the future, you are sure out of luck.
Jay-Z and Co. certainly agrees with the quoted lady. Tidal is now live, and it is not free. Basic subscription costs $10/month, while the upgrade will pull $20 from your account on a monthly basis. What will you get for $20, you ask? High fidelity music quality, which in more simple terms means CD-audio quality, and high definition music video streaming. Basic subscription allows you to listen to music in its compressed format, a standard for digital streaming services.
Jay-Z’s plan of differentiation involves as many artists as he can get on board who will then provide exclusive content through the service, often for limited time. At the unveiling event in New York City on Monday Jay-Z was accompanied by his wife, Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Jason Aldean, Jack White, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire and Alicia Keys among others. All artists are said to be owners of Tidal.
As of now, it is unclear who will really benefit from this new venture. The musicians’ main goal is to draw more attention to the issue of artists not benefiting from the popularity of their work and the unfair economic model of current streaming services. At the news conference, participating artists signed a statement and expressed that they would like to “forever change the course of music history.”
The hashtag #TidalforAll became leader of the promotion by all artists on Twitter, while the news also received heavy criticism. Some predict failure as soon as 2016 comes, some hope that it will truly bring a change in people’s attitude towards the way the listen to music on a daily basis. Tidal received hot and cold, as you may see in this article by Uproxx. The goal is respectable, but do you think it is sustainable? In other words, would you pay $10 or $20 for your daily music streaming with so many more economical choices out there?
As Jay-Z told the New York Times: “I just want to be an alternative. They don’t have to lose for me to win.” Let’s see if Tidal can solve one of Jay-Z’s 99 problems.